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Proposed law to help the needy

By Guo Kai (Global Times)

08:13, October 26, 2012

China plans to develop a law to govern its social welfare programs, which are currently administered by a patchwork of regulations and policies, in the hope that more truly needy families can be helped and abuses of the current system can be curtailed, according to Minister of Civil Affairs Li Liguo.

Li's report on government social assistance to the four-day session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislative body, said a comprehensive Social Assistance Law, currently being researched, is on the agenda.

The country now has many different social assistance policies that cover most urban and rural residents, Li said, noting that the current system lacks efficiency, and is difficult to monitor and enforce.

Li said some needy families are not entitled to social assistance when their income barely exceeds local minimum poverty level. When they have to deal with emergencies such as critical illness, they can be crushed by hospital bills that are not completely covered by the basic welfare system.

Problems also exist in some regions where people can pull strings to receive better benefits even though they are not entitled to them, Li added.

Li said the country will also boost the existing medical aid system to include HIV-related infections and severe mental illness.

In August, China's healthcare insurance system expanded coverage to include 25 critical illnesses, aiming to prevent patients from being financially crushed by high costs. People living with HIV/AIDS and severe mental illness were for the first time given heathcare benefits.

"I hope the government will increase reimbursement of medical cost for HIV/AIDS patients, and set up a special fund to help reduce their burden," said Chang Kun, general coordinator of the China Youth HIV/AIDS Assembly.

Chang said HIV/AIDS patients now receive free anti-virus treatment, and the basic medical aid system pays at least part of the cost of treatment of common symptoms such as pneumonia.

Some poor rural families are being forced to deal with severely mentally ill members because they cannot afford treatment or hospitalization.

The nation was shocked to learn the story of Wu Maoping, who was locked in cage for 20 years by his family in Laiwu, Shandong Province, as a way of coping with his mental illness. He was rescued in September last year.

Xia Xueluan, a Peking University sociologist, told the Global Times Thursday that the country's economic development has given it the financial clout to create a comprehensive Social Assistance Law that will prevent people from falling into poverty when they face an emergency.

"The law will provide for greater social equality and justice," Xia said.
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